Christmas in North Carolina’s First Capital 2018 Edition
New Bern is Christmas City, USA
List the things you want in a traditional holiday getaway and plug the words into an online search engine.
Snow, sledding, Christmas parade, Christmas tree lighting, Santa Claus, fine dining and lodging, and while we’re at it, why not live window displays too?
Throw in some extras, pie-in-the-sky kinds of things – a festive 18th-century town done up right for the holidays, a 1700’s colonial palace, black powder fireworks, and an 18th-century masquerade party where George Washington once danced.
Make it a riverfront town, and throw in a holiday lights flotilla – but with mild winter weather.
Watch that search engine chew on all those variables and spit out lots of options that touch on some of these qualities. But let’s be honest – there’s only one place in the world that fully fits that description, and that’s New Bern, North Carolina.
Yeah, you read about New Bern back in September. It’s the city that got walloped by Hurricane Florence. But a mere month later, New Bern pulled itself back together and hosted its annual Mumfest street festival; in fact, one of its most successful in decades.
Next up, the holidays and New Bern’s up for the challenge.
New Bern, founded in 1710, is noted for its charm and preserved history, but the city throws out all the stops for the holidays. From festive street lighting and events to a massive Christmas tree mounted at the center of the traffic circle at Broad and East Front Streets, the city becomes magical.
A lot of people are involved in this community-wide effort, but one leads the pack. Amanda Banks, an accountant for the rest of the year, throws out the spreadsheets at the end of Thanksgiving and becomes New Bern’s, Mrs. Christmas.
Banks has volunteered her time and skills to lead downtown’s biggest holiday event, the month-long Beary Merry Christmas, an event she’s led since 2012. She leads a core group of 20 volunteers during the offseason that expands to more than 100 during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
This year is especially important. Following the devastation of Hurricane Florence in September, New Bern has pushed hard to show the world that it is back and stronger than ever.
Florence affected the entire community, and following a disaster like that, Banks said it is especially important to make sure that Beary Merry Christmas is an all-inclusive event.
“The purpose is to drive business to the downtown, but we don’t want to exclude anyone,” she said
though Beary Merry Christmas is located in downtown, it is a community-wide effort. Title sponsors this year come from throughout New Bern – Riverside Auto Groups, Bojangles, U.S. Cellular, and Viamark Carolinas. Meanwhile, Century 21 Zaytoun-Raines sponsors the photo booth at Bear Plaza off Middle Street, amid snow and, of course, Santa.
Local Holiday Highlights 2018:
Beary Merry Christmas 2018
- Santa House in Bear Plaza: 232 Middle St. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays beginning Friday, Nov. 23 through Monday, Dec. 24. Have your photo taken with Sana for $6 the add on one of a selection of Beary Merry Frames for an additional $3
- New Bern’s Gingerbread Hosue Contest & Display: Nov. 23- Jan. 2, Downtown New Bern. Gingerbread House Contest & Display sponsored by New Bern Historial Society. Houses displayed at select downtown merchants. For more information, visit the New Bern Historical Society’s webpage!
- Santa’s Arrival: Nov. 23, 4-8 p.m. Santa House in Bear Plaza, 232 Middle St. Beary Merry Christmas is New Bern officially begins on Friday, Nov. 23 with “Light up the Season”, an annual family event that will welcome Santa and illuminate Bear Plaza with thousands of lights and open Santa’s House to kids of all ages. The seasonal block party will take place along the “200 Block” of Middle Street.
- Community Christmas Tree Lighting: Nov. 24, 4-8:30 p. m., Traffic Circle at Broad and East Front Streets, Downtown New Bern. Join in for the Annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting. The 30-foot-tall artificial tree is sponsored by the greater New Bern Community. Don’t miss this wonderful small town Christmas tradition.
- New Bern Christmas Parade: Dec. 1, 3-5 p.m., Downtown New Bern. The Annual Craven County Jaycee’s Christmas Parade.
- 34th Annual Coastal Christmas Flotilla: Dec 1, 4-6 p.m., Union Point Park, 210 E. Front St. Come to see the local boaters parade their decorated boats and yachts along the Trent River.
- Craven Smart Start Holiday Hustle: Dec. 8. Craven Smart Start believes when young children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential, they will become loving, nurturing, independent individuals who will contribute to their families, communities, and society.
- Seasons of Giving: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration: Dec. 8 4:30-9-30 p.m.
- Sledding Shopping Sunday: Dec. 9, 1-4 p.m. Craven Street, Downtown New Bern. Snow is predicted on Craven Street. Be sure to bring the kids to this event – It’s not every day that you get to go sledding in downtown New Bern.
- LIVE Window Displays: Dec 14, 6-8 p. m. Downtown New Bern. Downtown shops participate in this annual event to have their self-made live window displays for visitors and residents to stroll through the historic district and view. There will be a judging and trophy awarded to the winner! Who do you think will win this year?!
But, wait, there’s even more to Christmas in New Bern!
- Polar Express: Departure Dates and Times: Dec. 7 & 8, 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., Dec. 21, 22 & 23 at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. & 7 p.m., Downtown New Bern. Enjoy a one-hour tour aboard the New Bern Trolley filled with caroling, Christmas lights, and a visit with the Conductor and Santa’s Elves. Plus a Believe sleigh bell for each guest. Purchase tickets in ADVANCE for this fabulous holiday event!
- Trent Woods Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, 2-5 p.m., Country Club Drive. The Town of Trent Woods has its own Christmas Parade!
Colonial Christmas in 2018
Meanwhile, at Tryon Palace, a faithful recreation of North Carolina’s last colonial headquarters and first state capital, these events:
Masquerade: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration: Saturday, Dec. 8 & 15, at the Governor’s Palace, Historic Grounds, Commission House, Stanly House, Dixon House, 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. This famed North Carolina tradition returns to Tryon Palace in 2018 for it’s 38th installation with beautiful new decorations and heartwarming holiday vignettes illuminated by the magical glow of candlelight. See the event page for more details and tickets!
Holiday Kickoff Movies: Saturday, Nov. 24, at the North Carolina History Center; noon and 3 p.m. The showing at 12 o’clock, noon, will be Muppet Christmas Carol (G). And the showing at 3 p.m. will be Elf (PG). Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for kids.
Discovering Tryon Palace: Holiday Décor: Wednesdays Nov. 28- Dec. 19, at Governor’s Palace, 9:30 a.m. Join the tour of the Governor’s Palace and focus on the decorations for the upcoming “Masquerade: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration”. Hadley Cheris, Try Palace Gardens and Greenhouse Manager, will lead a tour of the first floor of the Governor’s Palace, describing the special items used in the decorations and the “Four Elements” theming of the pieces. Tickets are $10.
Chamber Music by Candlelight: Nov. 30, at the Governor’s Palace, 7 p.m. (Palace doors will open at 6:30 p.m.). Join the Brierwood Ensemble of Wilmington, N.C., as they perform at Tryon Palace. This event offers the unique and rare opportunity to enjoy the Council Chamber in the Governor’s Palace, gently lit by candles and decorated for the holidays.